Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Press Room
MBARI news briefs—
September through December 2006

This page describes recent discoveries, achievements, publications, and events at MBARI.
For more information on these stories, please contact Kim Fulton-Bennett:,

^Scientists can now view live data from these instruments 3,500 meters below the ocean surface.
10 November 2006:
MBARI creates new observatory 3,500 meters below the ocean surface

On November 6, 2006, MBARI engineers put the finishing touches on an amazing array of instruments that can collect data 3,500 meters (11,500 feet) below the ocean surface and send that data to scientists on shore in real time. In development since 2002, the MOOS Shepard Meander experiment was designed to help find out how sediment and organic material reaches the deep sea. Over the last year, MBARI researchers installed more than 40 different scientific instruments on the flanks and in the main channel on Monterey Canyon to compare the sediment arriving in these two areas. Data from these instruments is sent to the surface through a cable that also serves as the mooring line for the surface buoy. The surface buoy relays data to shore and generates electricity (using a wind generator and solar panels) that is sent down the cable to power the instruments below. This complex project involved several major ground-breaking engineering achievements in designing the seafloor-to-surface cable and laying scientific cables on the deep-sea floor.

^A computer automatically highlighted a rockfish and a sea star in this underwater video clip.
3 November 2006:
Using computers to look for fish

Some time in the next year, the MARS observatory will allow researchers to watch 24-hour-a-day live video of the deep seafloor off Monterey Bay. This video will help scientists observe the behavior of deep-sea animals. Most of the time, however, there will be nothing to see but bare, muddy seafloor. Over the last few weeks, MBARI engineer Duane Edgington and his team members have been testing a computer system that will analyze undersea video to determine when something interesting is happening. This system will let scientists known when relatively large objects (such as fish) move past the camera. The team is also working on similar projects with two shallower ocean observatories off the coasts of Georgia and British Columbia.

^Launching the mapping AUV from MBARI's research vessel  Western Flyer off the coast of Oregon.
20 October 2006:
Underwater mapping by robot submarine

Eight MBARI researchers recently spent six marathon days at sea, using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to map the summit of Davidson Seamount. Their goal was to obtain detailed sonar images not only of the lava on the seamount, but also of deep-water corals, which can grow as tall as 3 meters (10 feet). After several years of development and testing in Monterey Canyon, the MBARI mapping AUV was used in several extended scientific expeditions this year, mapping carbonate mounds off Southern California, underwater lava flows off Oregon, and seafloor hydrates off British Columbia.

^Flow-injection analysis systems, such as this one operated by Ginger Elrod, are used to measure concentrations of manganese dissolved in seawater.
10 October 2006:
MBARI researcher describes the impact of a newfound species... of manganese

On Sept 29, 2006, Science magazine published a commentary by MBARI chemical oceanographer Ken Johnson that shows how a particular "chemical species" of manganese can help keep marine life alive in surface waters, even when the water below has become an anoxic "zone of death." Johnson's comments accompany an article by Robert E. Trouwborst and others, which shows that oxygen-poor parts of the Black Sea and the Chesapeake Bay contain dissolved manganese in a form [Mn(III)] that had never been detected before in the marine environment. Now that this form of manganese has been proven to be quite common in some areas, oceanographers will have to revise both their measurement techniques and their chemical models of the ocean. This marks the third time in the last six months that MBARI scientists have been invited to provide commentary on ground-breaking articles in Science. Previous commentaries were written by geophysicist Marcia McNutt (who is also MBARI President/CEO) and by engineer Zbigniew Kolber.

^Marine biologist and MBARI adjunct Edith Widder
19 September 2006:
MBARI adjunct Edith Widder wins MacArthur Award

On September 19, 2006 MBARI adjunct Edith Widder was awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant in recognition of her creative and pioneering studies of bioluminescent (glowing) marine organisms. Widder's work has involved designing and testing sensitive underwater light meters as well as video and still cameras that can detect very faint light in the dark ocean depths. She is currently developing a version of her "Eye-in-the-Sea" video camera to study marine life at the MARS ocean observatory in Monterey Bay. Widder is actively involved in marine conservation and is currently developing inexpensive sensor technologies to help reverse the trend of ecosystem degradation.

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Last updated: Oct. 07, 2013